What Do English Teachers Need from Writing EdTech?
Educational technology is rapidly changing the way educators teach and assess their students. A large variety of apps and programs available means it's easy to transform your teaching strategies. With so many choices, however, it can be difficult for educators to find the best solution to meet their needs and the needs of their students. There are platforms marketed as a one-size-fits-all solution, but often these products simply replace teacher-delivered content with videos and interactive modules. For English teachers, finding the right edtech tools can be particularly difficult, as their assignments and assessments are often nuanced, rarely fitting a “right or wrong” formula.
Challenges English Teachers Face
English teachers have a complicated task. Students’ successes and failures in learning to write effectively can impact other areas of learning. Across the humanities, English is the foundation on which communication of ideas and demonstration of learning is built. It’s not enough to simply continue to revisit the same foundations on a classwide basis—instead, English teachers become coaches for each individual student, helping them to strengthen their writing abilities.
What does it take to produce an entire classroom of competent, confident writers? If practice makes perfect, then students must continue to write until they’ve developed a strong voice and critical eye. This is particularly challenging in today’s social media focused world, where communication is happening in 140 characters or less (and translated into emojis). Even more challenging is the limited amount of instructional time that teachers have to make learning happen.
Writing-based edtech tools can help English teachers in the following ways: provide data visualization of student progress; allow individualized feedback; encourage writing process practice; gamify writing elements; and save time. English teachers also need all these attributes from tech that seamlessly integrates with other tools.
Visualizing Student Progress and Providing Individualized Feedback
Edtech platforms have the unique ability to provide comprehensive, big-picture insights with data from class performance. Metrics that measure different competencies can be employed quickly and efficiently to pinpoint and address learning milestones that aren’t being met. Similarly, this technology can be utilized to address the needs of particular students, whether they're struggling with grammar, vocabulary, or cohesion. Having access to this information allows teachers the fluidity to craft individualized lessons that respond to both their students and class as a whole. They can also help teachers leave detailed comments on student writing that fosters comprehensive revision.
Encouraging Writing Process Practice
Providing students with a platform to practice their writing is essential to their success. Assignments can often be perceived as high-stakes challenges, particularly when there is a grade attached. Students with writer’s block or academic anxiety may not perform at their peak when faced with turning in a final draft. By receiving insightful feedback from apps and teachers simultaneously, students are encouraged to practice their craft and be more comfortable with making mistakes.
Gamifying Writing Elements
English teachers can bring their own gamification elements to any writing-based app whether the students receive scores or simply feedback. This includes having students compete to see who can address the most feedback, create the highest number of drafts, or reduce the number of errors/issues in their drafts.
Giving students the tools to strengthen and revise their content not only produces more competent writers but saves teachers time in the long run. Sifting through incomplete drafts and repeatedly marking up the same mistakes is tedious—and it means that students are less likely to succeed on their final product. With the help of technology, students are responsible for correcting and learning from their own mistakes, before submitting a composition.
Disruptive technology doesn’t have to literally be disruptive. A platform that is used to support—rather than replace—learning is easier to implement, and doesn’t necessitate overcoming a steep learning curve. User-friendly platforms are both teacher- and student-friendly, providing solutions for teaching and learning.
The most successful edtech tools are not just developed with teachers in mind—they’re developed with teacher input.
What ways could an edtech platform transform your classroom? Where do you feel the ed-tech market has fallen behind in supporting English teachers? What are the most necessary tools for teaching English? Let us know in the comments below!
WriteLab helps you address each of the needs covered in this article. WriteLab is an online writing platform that offers immediate, actionable responses to student prose as they draft, revise, and polish their writing.